Smoky Orange Skies Cover West Coast As Fires Rage On

As the fires continue to cause death, destruction and power outages, lawmakers and climate authorities, push for people to recognize their link to climate change.

Smoky skies from the northern California wildfires casts a reddish color in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020 | Getty Images
Smoky skies from the northern California wildfires casts a reddish color in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020 | Getty Images

Over the past day, social feeds have been filled with photos of the west coast’s smoky orange skies — an ominous indicator of the worsening wildfires in California, Washington, and Oregon. At least 7 people, including a one-year-old boy in Washington, have died this week as a result of fires across the three states, according to multiple reports.

Dozens of fires continue to ravage the state of California, where more than 3 million acres have burned this year. And though the fires are burning more than hundreds of  miles away, Bay Area Air Quality notes that heavy winds have carried the smoke to cities including San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, creating the eerily-colored skies. The National Weather Service in San Francisco also noted the smoke will likely not get any lighter in the next day.

Other West Coast states are also dealing with a series of deadly fires. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said Wednesday that hundreds of homes had been lost and thousands of residents had been forced to evacuate due to fires that have ignited in the state. Washington has faced similar destruction as a result of the wildfires.

“It could be the greatest loss in human lives and property in our state's history," Brown said. "My heart goes out to all the families impacted by this devastating event."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also addressed the wildfire’s destruction in Malden, WA during a press conference on Tuesday, calling it one of the most "traumatic events," and said that the town's mayor told him that "it looked like a bomb had gone off." 

In California, the continuous fires have been exacerbated by weather conditions including record-high heat, destroying at least 5,800 structures, according to Cal Fire. Amid those conditions, Pacific Gas and Electric, the state’s biggest electricity provider, has shut off power to at least 160,000 households in central and northern California as a safety measure.

Experts and lawmakers have said that the climate crisis has played an undeniable role in the worsening wildfires. “No matter how hard we try, the fires are going to keep getting bigger, and the reason is really clear,” climate scientist Park Williams told Mercury News. “Climate is really running the show.”

Youth climate activists have also pointed to the Green New Deal, a proposed package of U.S. legislation supported by lawmakers included Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris, that aims to address both climate change and economic inequality.

Former President Barack Obama also tweeted about the role of the climate crisis in the West Coast fires, and urged Americans to “Vote like your life depends on it” to help protect the planet. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Tuesday acknowledged the climate issue that has intensified the state’s wildfire problem.

"I say this lovingly — not as an ideologue, but as someone who prides himself on being open to argument, interested in evidence — but I quite literally have no patience for climate change deniers," he told reporters. "It's completely inconsistent, that point of view, with the reality on the ground, the facts as we are experiencing. You may not believe it intellectually, but your own eyes, your own experiences tell a different story."